Bulgarian pickling workshop comes with a side of cultural exchange • Brooklyn Paper

Bulgarian pickling workshop comes with a side of cultural exchange

Jar heads: Bulgarians traditionally preserve vegetables in brine as a survival tactic to help them get through the winter months.
Photo by Jason Speakman

This class is kind of a big dill.

Members of a local Bulgarian arts collective are putting on a workshop for families in Greenwood Heights to teach them the art of pickling — Bulgarian style. But the recipe for this class contains some unexpected ingredients — the participants will also sing and tell stories from their home countries as they cook. One of the organizers said it is all about preserving culture while preserving food.

“It’s an important way of sharing knowledge,” said Daniela Kostova, a Bedford-Stuyvesant artist who helped launch the Bulgarian Collaborative collective. “It’s a real cultural exchange.”

Kostova, along with fellow collective members Vlada Tomova and Meglena Zapreva, will supply all the fixings needed for pickling on Dec. 6 at Open Source Gallery — jars, vegetables, herbs, and brine. During the pickling process, the artists will explain their traditions and teach kids about the plants they are working with. At the end of the workshop, they will use the leftover veggies to make a soup. The idea is to take the sharing of cultures out of art galleries and museums and open them up to people from all walks of life, Kostova said.

“I really see this as an alternative to the exclusivity of the art world,” she said. “We want to make people feel comfortable and not be intimidated.”

Kostova said that pickling in Bulgaria is basically a survival skill that people use to preserve vegetables through the winter season. She remembers her grandmother preserving peaches, plumbs, and cherries for cold compotes, which were her favorite.

“It was just part of our culture,” she said. “You couldn’t have a meal without pickles.”

Kostova said she finds it interesting that artisinal pickling has become so hip in Brooklyn, while ethnic stores around the city have always sold the brined basics.

“We wanted to connect these two different cultures — the gourmet and the real-deal pickling,” she said.

“Pickles / Stories / Songs” at Open Source (306 17th St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Greenwood Heights, exchangeworks.co/offers/pickling). Dec. 6 from 1–2 pm and from 2:30–3:30 pm. $35 per family.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.

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